49ers break with tradition to spend big bucks on cornerback Charvarius Ward

That still-costly deal could indicate the 49ers plan to clear salary cap room, whether by extending high-priced veterans or by trading (or releasing) quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo ($24 million salary in 2022).

That’s also quite a jackpot for a cornerback who, four years ago, went undrafted out of Middle Tennessee State University, where he was teammates with wide receiver Richie James Jr., a 2018 seventh-round pick by the 49ers (and current free agent).

James, in fact, beat Ward for a last-minute, game-winning touchdown catch in the pair’s pro debut, the 2018 preseason opener.

Ward entered the NFL by signing for $5,000 guaranteed with the Dallas Cowboys, who traded him just before kickoff of their 2018 preseason finale. The 6-foot-1 cornerback was sent to the Chiefs for guard Parker Ehringer, a free agent seeking his eighth team in five years.

“I was shocked. I started crying at first,” Ward to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a few days prior to the Super Bowl against the 49ers. “I started crying because I didn’t know if I was going to make the team in Kansas City. Preseason was over and training camp was over. I was wondering. I didn’t know.”

He made the team. He made the starting lineup. He made himself into a multi-millionaire, with his 26th birthday still ahead of him on May 16.

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